By MARLON SCOTT | Senior Staff Writer
Neither team shot the lights out in Houston, Texas, but the UConn Huskies made enough shots to capture the 2011 National Championship.
“I’m just happy the hard worked paid off and we were able to prove people wrong when they said we couldn’t,” said Alex Oriakhi. “Coach Calhoun was definitely one person who believed in us when nobody did, so it’s just a great feeling right now.”
After a tight, low scoring first half, the Huskies went on a 20-3 run in the second half and never looked back. Butler made championship history by shooting a record low 18.8 percent (12-of-64) in the game.
Kemba Walker led his team with 16 points. Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to add 12 points. Alex Oriakhi scored a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“You see the tears on my face. I have so much joy in me, it’s unreal. It’s surreal. I’m so happy right now,” Walker said.
Matt Howard was held to seven points. Shelvin Mack was the only Bulldog who scored double digits with 13 points.
This was the second year in a row Butler failed to win the championship game. This was the third national title in school history for UConn. Huskie head coach Jim Calhoun earned his third national championship. Only four other coaches have completed that feat.
Calhoun is also the oldest coach to win a national championship at 68-years old.
“This group has taken me on one of the great special journeys, better than I could have possibly imagined,” Calhoun said.
UConn outscored Butler 26-2 in the paint. They also outrebounded the Bulldogs 51-40. The Huskies shot 35 percent (19-of-55) from the floor.
“They were a magnificent opponent we just happen to be better tonight,” Calhoun said.
The game was a litany of missed shots by both teams. Neither team gained an advantage in the first half. After seven lead changes, the lead at halftime came down to a long, last second three-pointer made by Butler’s Mack to put the Bulldogs up 22-19.
After opening the second half with another 3-pointer from Chase Stigall, the Bulldogs offensive struggles went from bad to worse. They went through two long stretches without making any shot. In addition to turning up defensive pressure, the Huskies also crashed the boards, limiting the Bulldogs second shots.
Butler tried to stick to what got them to the championship: shooting 3-pointers. However, the shots that fell before did not find the net in Houston. The Bulldogs made only 9-33 (27 percent) from three-point range
While the Bulldogs struggled, UConn’s Walker did the same thing he has been doing throughout the tournament, leading his team to victory.
“The Big east tournament, we came out strong. We got a lot of confidence from that tournament. We kind of felt unstoppable,” Walker said.
“It was right. We were unstoppable and that is why we are national champions. We are the best team in the country.” TAS